15 years ago must have been one of the best weekend’s of Noel Bailie’s life. Not only did he hold the Setanta Cup aloft, his beloved Arsenal also lifted the FA Cup, as he recollects.
“It was the perfect weekend for me! Just after my pre-match meal of chicken, beans and toast, as well as tea and chocolate, I watched Arsenal and Manchester United in the FA Cup final play a very boring boring match and then just as we were getting off the bus, Patrick Vieira scored the winning penalty, so that was a great start for me.”
Partnering William Murphy in the centre of defence, Noel was immense. That formidable partnership swept up everything that came their way, as did the team as a collective unit.
“The match itself – we were superb. Defended brilliantly, every one of us, one to eleven plus the subs that came on. We got two great goals which was just what we’d hoped for from our two top strikers, Peter Thompson and ‘Spike’ Ferguson.
“I think a lot of people thought we were going to get tortured. In the second half we defended so well that Alan Mannus didn’t have a massive amount to do, which was a big surprise. I’ve said it before but it’s probably the most I have ever heard our fans sing in all my years at Linfield, which says a lot. The fans, from start to finish and for about half an hour after while we were still on the pitch, made incredible noise. It was a fantastic atmosphere all night.
“I can’t remember a massive amount from the celebrations. I think we went back to the hotel and had a bite to eat, had a few drinks and then the coach home on the Sunday morning. It was just such a fantastic day.”